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Peds 21 Program to Focus on Physician Health, Wellness :

August 9, 2017

Editor's note: Pediatrics for the 21st Century (Peds 21) will be held Sept. 15 in Chicago followed by the 2017 AAP National Conference & Exhibition Sept. 16-19.

For those working in the medical field, putting in long hours and working when ill or fatigued was part of the culture, often occurring at the expense of sleep, time with friends and family, and their own wellness.

But that is starting to change. 

In response to data on high rates of physician burnout, depression and suicide, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has held two symposia on physician well-being. Now, there is an increased focus on the need for individual and organizational strategies to enhance physician resilience and well-being, said Janet Serwint, MD, FAAP, pediatric residency program director at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.   

And that’s a good thing, said Dr. Serwint, whose passion for physician wellness was sparked during her own residency more than 26 years ago. Until recently, however, she was ahead of her time. 

“For a long time, people didn’t really pay as much attention to this and now all of a sudden this is the new hottest topic,” Dr. Serwint said. “It’s very rewarding to me, something I’ve been committed to for a long time coming into its own.”

Dr. Serwint is among the presenters at the Pediatrics for the 21st Century (Peds 21) program “Pediatricians Leading Change in Physician Health and Wellness (C0017)” from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm on Friday, Sept. 15. She will present the keynote address titled “Caring for Ourselves to Care for Children” and will participate in a panel discussion on approaches to wellness that will address individual and organizational strategies, creating a practice centered on wellness, and medical education. 

Other presentations include:

  • “The Culture of Health Care: How We Are Making Ourselves Unwell,” by Hilary McClafferty MD, FAAP; 
  • “Wellness, Burnout, and the Link to Quality Care,” by David Schonfeld, MD, FAAP; and
  • “Recognizing Burnout in Yourself and Colleagues,” by Carol Bernstein, MD

Part of the increased focus on physician wellness stems from research showing that burnout is prevalent at all career stages. In addition, an estimated 300-400 physicians commit suicide each year.

Dr. Serwint said she believes long hours aren’t the only reason for the high burnout rate. Other factors at play include spending a lot of time on tasks that don’t involve patient care like electronic health record documentation.

Those who attend Peds 21 will learn about the scope of the problem as well as practical strategies to promote physician wellness at the individual and organizational levels.

“To me, what is challenging about wellness strategies is one size doesn’t fit all,” Dr. Serwint said. “What might work for me may not fit for you and vice versa. For individual strategies, people have to find their own way.”

She also emphasized the importance of role modeling.

“If you see the faculty who you admire working really hard or not paying attention to health, that’s a model you will emulate,” Dr. Serwint said.

She and other pediatric residency program directors are trying to determine the best ways to incorporate physician wellness into training.  

“Physicians tend to practice in the way they were trained,” she said. “If we’re laying the foundation for physicians in training to be mindful about resilience and well-being, I think it’s going to result in a better workforce down the road.”

For more stories on educational sessions and events at the 2017 AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago, visit http://bit.ly/2vm1VUU. To register for the conference, visit http://aapexperience.org/conference-registration/.

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